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Why Social Media is Ruining the Music of Coachella

It’s no secret that Coachella is about doing it for the ‘gram. For the past several years, fashion has become one of the most prominent hallmarks of the festival. People come for the culture, as much as the music itself. But this year more so than any other, it was obvious that attendees’ obsession with the Coachella scene, vibes and photos were negatively harming the actual musical performances. 

Several artists called out their crowds during Weekend 2 for not paying attention or being into the set. The Neighbourhood said it had been their dream to perform at Coachella, yet after last weekend, they weren’t so sure. Singer Jesse Rutherford tried to hype up the crowd, but commented that they just wanted to “chill.” He sarcastically told them to keep the energy up for his last number. 

The Weeknd did recognize that Weekend 2 was “definitely better” than Weekend 1 in terms of audience participation, which still implied how bad his audience was before. Fans of Tyler the Creator also called out the quiet crowd during Weekend 1. 

But what exactly is driving this lack of interest in the music of Coachella? Guests will say they’re simply tired. In the desert heat for upwards of 12 hours a day, it’s no wonder they can’t all enthusiastically respond when The Weeknd asks them to jump during his songs at midnight. Water is infamously not free, and shade is sparse (guests often congregate under the giant art sculptures to use for shade instead of artistic appreciation). 

But it’s more than just the climate. Social media and the consumer culture of Coachella are not only affecting the festival, but also ruining it, some artists and attendees believe. 

In the camp site, Peet’s coffee set up a bus to advertise to willing and sweaty attendees. Method soap entertained guests with body wash samples and a 360 degree selfie cam inside a giant bubble. HP puts on a tech show in the Antarctic dome, similar to an IMAX experience. Companies send influencers and social media stars to get attention and run Instagram stories.

Two attendees, Zuri and Tameika, stopped by the Method soap activation to snap some photos and enter their giveaway to possibly win a VIP ticket upgrade for sharing a photo and tagging Method on social media. Zuri said she’d already posted three times on social media about the festival—and it was only noon on Day 2. They also did some live videos. The two Virginia natives said the social media culture of Coachella is inevitable as everything is becoming online-driven. They don’t think it’s ruining the festival, but it is changing it—regardless, they just want to see Beyoncé perform tonight. 

Kyrah, a UCLA student, said the social media culture is probably getting worse, because of course now “Coachella fashion is HUGE.” It’s just something artists should accept when we live in an online-focused world.

Hetty and Natasha, Chico state students, note how “Coachella is more than just a music festival” because indeed, social media is taking over our lives — it’s just always going to be prevalent from now on. They noticed how The Neighbourhood called out fans on Friday, April 20 for not being into his set, but feel like the calling out doesn’t work in generating more participation. “People can’t know the words to all the songs,” Hetty says. She did still have fun, even though she was weary that other festivalgoers wouldn’t be into the music. “I was worried when people said Weekend 1 was bad.” 

This year guests could rent portable chargers in case their phones died—God forbid. The campsite features charging stations with dozens of outlets ready for plugging and posting, because that’s what matters.

Though our online obsession has been growing for a decade, only this year has it truly culminated in artists calling out fans for not paying attention. Perhaps that can be attributed to the heat, not knowing songs or solely doing it for the ‘gram.  

Lindsay was the president/editor-in-chief of the UCLA chapter of Her Campus from 2015-2018. She was previously the Viral Section Editor at Her Campus and an Editorial Intern at the headquarters in Boston. Lindsay grew up in Washington state and transitioned to love the Southern California sunshine while studying communications and environmental science at UCLA. Twitter: @WeinbergLindsay.
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